An upper lip lift is a surgical procedure that involves removing a small strip of skin under your nose. This shortens the area between the base of the nose and the top lip (the philtrum) to expose more of the vermilion (the darker-colored part of the lips), which makes the lips appear fuller and more youthful. It also rolls the vermilion border (the line between the normal lip skin and the vermilion) up slightly, giving more definition and contour to the Cupid’s bow and revealing more of your upper teeth (what doctors call “tooth show”).
“The procedure has a big impact for several reasons,” explains Dr. Ricardo Rodriguez, a plastic surgeon who performs upper and corner lip lifts at his practice in Baltimore, Maryland. “When people look at faces they focus mostly on the eyes and the mouth, so the lips have a very important role in how others perceive you. Secondly, we all recognize the appearance of the lips as a marker for aging. Finally, the relation of the upper lip to the nose determines the relationship and harmony between the lower and middle thirds of your face, so the length of your upper lip plays a big role in facial proportions.”
A highly customizable outpatient procedure done under local anesthesia, an upper lip lift usually takes about an hour and leaves a discreet scar that heals in a few months.
Patients can also opt for a corner lip lift, which raises the corners of the mouth by removing a small amount of skin, or skin plus muscle, at the corners of the mouth.
Lower lip lift procedures, commonly called lower lip advancement, are less common. They’re performed on patients who have an especially thin lower lip or oversized upper lip, to make their lips look more proportionate.
Interested in a lip lift?
Find a Doctor Near You
- A lip lift is a permanent solution to create fuller lips, without the ongoing maintenance of temporary lip fillers.
- It's a relatively simple facial plastic surgery procedure that's done under local anesthesia.
- Because the procedure lifts tissue, rather than adding volume, a lip lift surgery won’t give you the “duck lips” look that can sometimes happen with fillers.
- It can give your mouth a more proportional look relative to the rest of your face, enhance your lip shape, and expose more of your upper teeth, a look that’s considered more youthful.
- If your surgeon removes too much skin, it’s very challenging to restore that length.
- It will reveal more of your top teeth, so if your upper teeth are crowded, discolored, or uneven, you might want to either consider other lip augmentation options like fillers—or also spring for teeth straightening and whitening.
- You will be left with a small scar. “There’s always scarring at the base of the nose. But [if the lip lift is] performed well, with meticulous closure, there is just a very fine line scar that forms. It can further be improved with laser resurfacing,” says Dr. Gary Linkov, a facial plastic surgeon in New York City.
- Average Cost:
- $150 - $6,500
The price you pay for this cosmetic surgery will depend on your provider’s level of experience, their practice location, and the details of your procedure. See our complete guide to lip lift costs.
Interested in a lip lift?
Find a Doctor Near You
Finance your procedure
RealSelf can connect you with vetted lenders for financing options that fit your budget and timeline.See financing options
You need a distance between your nose and your upper lip of at least 8 mm in order for an upper lip lift to have a beautiful, natural-looking result.
Patients choose the procedure for several different reasons. “I have been doing the lip lift for over 20 years, and there is no typical patient,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “Every patient has their own needs, and it is important to get a clear understanding of not only the length the patient wants, but the shape. Some patients want a pronounced Cupid’s bow, others not.”
These are some of the most common motivations.
- Shortening a long lip. Some people naturally have a longer than average midface, says Dr. Rodriguez—and an especially long upper lip, which can make them a good candidate for the procedure. However, he cautions that “with these patients one must be very careful, as a poorly planned lip lift may result in too much tooth show.”
- Reducing signs of aging. The amount of skin between the bottom of the nose and top of the upper lip lengthens with age, which can make lips look smaller and lower on your face.
- Avoiding lip fillers. “Lip injections frequently cause anterior projection and downward movement of the upper lip,” says Dr. Linkov. Dr. Rodriguez also commonly sees both older and younger patients who have tried lip fillers and weren’t happy with the result. “Fillers lengthen the lip and create an abnormal pout, making the patient look more critically at their lips and become aware of length issues,” he says. In contrast, a lip lift permanently enhances naturally thin lips or those that have thinned with age. “The combination of shortening length, increasing vermillion show, and increasing tooth show has a huge impact that surpasses anything possible with fillers.”
- Increasing tooth show. Exposing more of the upper teeth can make older patients look younger. “Some patients may not even focus specifically on the lip length, but want more tooth show,” says Dr. Rodriguez. In these cases, he often recommends a combination of a lip lift and seeing a cosmetic dentist to lengthen the front teeth (through a gum lift or dental veneers).
- Feminizing the face. Dr. Rodriguez says that the procedure “can have a profoundly feminizing effect on facial appearance,” so it’s increasingly being performed as a gender-affirming procedure.
There are a few different approaches to an upper lip lift.
- The bullhorn lip lift or subnasal lip lift is the most common technique. It involves removing the skin just below and to the sides of the nostrils. The scar is easily hidden under the base of the nose.
- For an Italian lip lift, the surgeon removes two small pieces of skin from under the nostrils. It usually doesn't leave much of a scar, but can distort the nostril base.
- A gullwing lip lift includes one incision at the junction of the vermillion and skin of the upper lip. Dr. Rodriguez says that this procedure has fallen out of favor because it destroys the roll of tissue between the normal lip skin and the vermillion. It also gives the lip a flattened look.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Fuller Lips—From Plumping Glosses to Silicone Implants
Here’s what typically happens during a surgical lip lift:
- Lidocaine will be injected to numb the area, so you should feel no pain during the procedure.
- Once you’re numb, the entire procedure will take about an hour.
- To perform a bullhorn lip lift, your surgeon will draw a wavy ellipsis shape, resembling bullhorns (or angel wings) right under your nostrils, outlining where they plan to cut and remove skin. The larger the piece removed, the greater your lift will be.
- Your surgeon will cut along the outline and remove the bullhorn.
- They will then use tiny sutures or surgical glue to anchor the remaining skin at the base of the nose, suspending your top lip and instantly shortening the philtrum.
- Some surgeons will anchor the skin to deeper structures in areas like the septum of the nose and the internal nasal membranes, to get a tension-free closure. “Tension at the wound can cause nasal distortion or thick scars,” cautions Dr. Rodriguez.
The ideal philtrum length is considered 10–12 mm, but your doctor may decide not to go that short. “For example, if the philtrum starts at 20-plus mm, reducing it down to 10 mm, or even 12 mm, is a major distortion to the facial features,” says Dr. Linkov. “So for someone with a length of 20-plus mm, I will frequently bring them down to about 14–15 mm.”
Most people return to work after about 1 week of downtime. Here’s what you can expect during your recovery:
- The incision will be swollen for a week to 10 days afterward.
- You might have some bruising around your mouth.
- Your doctor will likely advise you to apply cold compresses, take over-the-counter pain meds as necessary, clean the incision with diluted hydrogen peroxide, and apply an antibiotic ointment twice daily for 1 week.
- You’ll also need to refrain from smoking for 2 weeks.
- If your surgeon didn’t use dissolvable sutures, they’ll need to be removed 1 week after your procedure.
- If they applied surgical glue, it’s best to let it peel away on its own; try to avoid picking at it or attempting to remove it yourself.
- The worst of the swelling should be resolved within 2 weeks, and you can cover the scar with makeup.
- The swelling and scar appearance will get better over time and fade significantly within 3 months.
- Scar tissue takes time to flatten, but it will get smoother over time. Some patients will need steroid injections during recovery to ensure good healing. Your provider may also recommend silicone sheets or gel to reduce the scar’s appearance.
- If you notice a change in sensation near your scar, talk to your doctor. Several RealSelf members say they lost feeling in their lips or had trouble speaking afterward. This should be temporary, but it could take a few months to fully resolve.
Your lip will look fuller immediately after a lip lift, but you won’t see the final effect until all the swelling, bruising, and scarring settle down—usually in about three months.
Lip lift results last for years, often more than a decade. Dr. Robert Sigal, a Reston, Virginia, plastic surgeon, says “you should be able to count on longevity from your lip lift. It's a remarkably reliable and long-lasting procedure.”
That being said, your lips will continue to age along with the rest of your face. You may find that you lose volume over time, which can be remedied with lip fillers, fat transfer, or lip implants.
“The upper lip may elongate 1-2mm over a long period of time, but most elongation in a short timeframe, or elongation greater than 2mm, is due to a lack or failure of proper fixation of the upper lip to a stable base,” explains Dr. Rodriguez.
“The skin of the columella and nostrils is mobile, and the skin of the lip adheres to the muscle of the lip. The constant action of the lip creates constant tension on the base of the nose," he explains. "This can drag down the columella and nostrils, making the lip appear longer.” This increased tension can also change the shape of your nose. “That is why some patients complain that their nose got longer or the tip turned up after a lip lift,” says Dr. Rodgriguez.
A lip lift can yield a perfect result, “or it can be a disaster, depending on how it is performed,” according to Beverly Hills, California, plastic surgeon Dr. Brent Moelleken.
Most lip lift complications are due to a lack of proper fixation during surgery.
“When the upper lip is not fixed to a stable base, the tension of the highly mobile lip will manifest in several ways,” according to Dr. Rodriguez:
- The pull of the lip muscle can cause nostril or nasal tip distortion.
- The scar can migrate down and become more visible.
- The tension can also create a raised hypertrophic scar, as “the body tries to prevent the skin edges from pulling apart by depositing extra collagen for added strength.”
“If the patient requests an aggressive lift, has a long midface, or already has good tooth show before surgery, the possibility of a gummy smile should also be mentioned,” says Dr. Rodriguez.
Look for a board-certified plastic surgeon with years of experience doing lip lifts, who can assess whether you have the right lip-to-nose ratio to achieve your desired results.
RealSelf Tip: There have been some safety concerns around combining a lip lift with open rhinoplasty because of the proximity of the incisions in the columella. Since only a small island of skin is left between the two procedure incisions, skin necrosis (tissue death) or excessive scarring is possible. If you are considering combining these procedures, make sure you discuss these risks with your doctor.
|Worth It Rating||96%||94%||82%||83%|
|Downtime||No downtime||No downtime||1 week of downtime||Up to 3 days of downtime|
|Anesthesia||No anesthesia||Topical numbing cream||Local anesthesia||Local anesthesia|
You may also want to consider one of these lip augmentation procedures, keeping in mind that none of them shortens or lifts the lip.
- A Botox lip flip: If you’re interested in a more subtle result without the expense, risks, or recovery time involved with surgery, a Botox lip flip can be a good option. An experienced injector can use microdoses of Botox, which relaxes the muscles in the upper lip, making the vermillion appear larger and more pouty. Results last up to three months.
- Lip fillers: Injecting the lips with hyaluronic acid fillers, such as Juvéderm and Restylane, can instantly make your lips look fuller and even refine their shape. The downside to fillers is that the results are temporary, lasting 4 to 12 months, depending on the type of filler used and your own metabolism.
Related: Botox Lip Flips vs. Filler: Which Option Is Better?
- Fat transfer: Another option is to use fat from your own body to volumize your lips. Liposuction is performed to remove excess fat from another area of your body (usually the hips or stomach), and that fat can be injected into your lips, other areas of the face, or your breasts or butt.Results can last for years and look very natural, but this cosmetic procedure can cost more than a lip lift—and substantially more than fillers. There’s also some risk of inconsistent results, since not all the transferred fat will survive.
- Lip implants: The most dramatic lip enhancement option, lip implants are usually made of soft, pliable silicone. They’re inserted through small incisions made in the corners of the mouth, permanently creating fullness. Risks include asymmetry, lumps, and shifting implants, so find a board-certified plastic surgeon who’s experienced in this procedure.
Interested in a lip lift?
Published November 11, 2020 Updated July 1, 2022
Your lip will look fuller immediately after a lip lift, but you won't see the final effect until all the swelling, bruising, and scarring settle down—usually in about three months.How long does lip lift last? ›
Unlike dermal fillers, which typically last 6-18 months, a lip lift will last for years to come.Is a lip lift worth it? ›
What the procedure can do. A lip lift can bring up the upper lip, creating a more youthful appearance in which your teeth are more visible. According to respondents on the cosmetic surgery site RealSelf.com, 92 percent of those who have had it say it was “worth it.”How long does it take to see results of a lip lift? ›
It is not uncommon for the lip-lift incisions to take about six to eight weeks to begin to look good. You may also experience tightness in the affected area for two to four months.Does a lip lift look natural? ›
Do Lip Lifts Look Natural? In most cases, the result is a natural-looking fuller smile that many patients refer to as “younger-looking lips. It can be performed independently or combined with other procedures like a brow lift to achieve even more dramatic results.How painful is a lip lift? ›
Fortunately, a lip lift is a simple treatment that results in minimal to no pain and discomfort. The only side effects you'll likely experience include swelling and bruising. While pain medication is rarely necessary, antibiotic cream applied to the suture line will result in faster healing.Does a lip lift make you look younger? ›
Rather than just fuller tips, a lip lift improves the shape and length of your lips. With a better-shaped pout, your mouth and your overall appearance will seem more youthful.Who is not a good candidate for a lip lift? ›
Those who won't be able to stop smoking for about 4 weeks postsurgery or those who have a smaller space between the nose and the mouth won't be good candidates.Is lip lift risky? ›
Bullhorn lip lifts are usually done under local anesthesia and are considered safe and effective. As with all elective surgeries, there are risks and potential complications, including: scarring. bleeding.Does a lip lift make your lips bigger? ›
But surgeons have modified the cosmetic procedure in recent years to make it an appealing stand-alone option for younger patients: think more discreet scars and faster recovery. And for people who want bigger lips but are tired of going back for multiple injections, the lip lift is an appealing option.
A lip lift does not change your smile, it simply restores your youthful look.Does lip drop after lip lift? ›
Answer: Lip Lift
Having performed many lip lifts I have never seen one return to its preoperative length. There is going to be about a 20% to 25% relapse by six months in studies that we have performed.
Upper lip lifts are notorious for distorting the nasal base, causing scarring and nasal widening. All lip lifts have the potential to change the nose to some degree.Which celebrities have had lip lifts? ›
Hollywood Bombshells such as Kylie Jenner, Megan Fox and Courtney Cox have had this painless enhancement procedure done, with amazing results. Dr. Milgrim had the pleasure of treating Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey star Kim D. recently with Juvéderm.How long are you swollen after a lip lift? ›
Bruising and swelling are normal for 5-7 days. It will disappear over time. The area around your mouth will feel tight but not necessarily look tight (it will look natural). This is normal and will disappear over time as the swelling and numbness resolves.How do you take care of a lip lift? ›
POST LIP LIFT CARE - Step-by-Step Instructions From L&P Aesthetics in ...Does lip lift leave a scar? ›
A lip lift does leave a scar, but it's typically undetectable after a few weeks. Upper lip lifts are done with an external incision that is placed either on the lip under the nose or rarely it can be placed directly above the lip line.What is a mini lip lift? ›
A lip lift is a simple, in-office surgical procedure to elevate the upper lip. It is done either to shorten the distance of an overly long upper lip, or to increase the amount of “red show” for a lip that is naturally very thin.Does a lip lift change your smile? ›
A lip lift does not change your smile, it simply restores your youthful look.Is lip lift surgery permanent? ›
Lip lifts are an elective cosmetic surgery that can make the upper lift look larger and more pronounced. Unlike lip implants or injections, lip lifts are a permanent solution.
Upper lip lifts are notorious for distorting the nasal base, causing scarring and nasal widening. All lip lifts have the potential to change the nose to some degree.How do you take care of a lip lift? ›
Apply towel wrapped ice bags or cooling packs (keep them cold, but not frozen) to the exposed areas of your face for the first 72 hours to reduce post-operative swelling. 4. If you have pain or discomfort, take the pain medication every 4-6 hours. It is best to take the pain medication with crackers, Jell-O, etc.Who is not a good candidate for a lip lift? ›
Those who won't be able to stop smoking for about 4 weeks postsurgery or those who have a smaller space between the nose and the mouth won't be good candidates.What is a mini lip lift? ›
A lip lift is a simple, in-office surgical procedure to elevate the upper lip. It is done either to shorten the distance of an overly long upper lip, or to increase the amount of “red show” for a lip that is naturally very thin.Does lip lift increase tooth show? ›
A lift turns the lip up and out.” The 30-minute office procedure excises tissue from just below the nose to shorten the distance between nose and mouth, causing the top lip to curl up a bit, exposing more teeth, or “tooth show.” In young patients, it gives the perfect selfie pout; in older candidates, it makes them ...